“You perceived me as the leader because I had the mic in my hand and the championship around my waist. I think the reason why that group of us was so fun is because there wasn’t someone as our leader. We don’t follow anyone. They follow us. I never wanted to be the leader, I wanted it to be a group and so no one person was the leader. I never called myself the leader of the Bullet Club. A lot of people list on Wikipedia (that I was the leader), but I can only say it so many times.” -AJ Styles
Hello! We continue this Bullet Club series by looking at the AJ Styles & Karl Anderson era. As ‘The Phenomenal One” said, there was no one leader after Prince Devitt left for WWE, but many consider AJ Styles & Karl Anderson to be. While AJ worked in the United States for Ring of Honor, Anderson took care of the group in New Japan, but Bullet Club found its way as a cohesive unit without answering to anybody. You could say Styles was the main attraction, while Anderson served as caretaker.
There weren’t many additions during this time. The three founders of Bad Luck Fale, Karl Anderson and Tama Tonga remained. Tag teams of The Young Bucks, along with Anderson & Gallows, gave the group credible champions in the heavyweight and junior heavyweight divisions. And while Prince Devitt’s leadership established Bullet Club, this era cemented it as a force to be reckoned with. Before we see how they did this, have you missed the first part? Don’t worry, you can check it out here:
#11. AJ Styles – Joint 2nd Leader, first IWGP Heavyweight Champion (April 6, 2014 – January 5, 2016)
The story of AJ Styles in New Japan began long before he debuted. We have to go back to 2010, when he reigned as the TNA World Heavyweight Champion. Hulk Hogan, Eric Bischoff, and an army of former WWE/WCW/ECW guys turned up and changed everything TNA had built up to be from 2002. It was a frustrating time for many loyal fans, who saw the promotion change from an exciting wrestling alternative, in to what some dubbed WCW or “WWE Lite”.
The six-sided ring was gone and the X-Division had limits placed on it. Hogan’s Immortal stable was a poor man’s New World Order, while Ric Flair introduced Fourtune, which tried to be a modern day Four Horsemen. Not long after debuting, Rob Van Dam defeated AJ Styles for the World Heavyweight title. Styles joined Fourtune as its lead guy (aside from Flair) and would enter matches wearing Flair robes. Once considered the poster boy of TNA, he became just another face on a crowded roster. Eventually, despite being one of TNA’s most loyal workers, Styles became frustrated and needed a change.
He turned heel and adopted the “Lone Wolf” gimmick. This was a much darker side of Styles, who had spent much of his career as a babyface. He only cared about AJ Styles and getting back in to the main event, because he carried the company on his back long before Hogan & Bischoff were brought in and failed to take it to the next level. In a worked shoot promo, Styles let everyone know how he feels about TNA, Dixie Carter, and his position in the company.
AJ Styles won the Bound For Glory series and defeat Bully Ray at Bound For Glory. As the TNA World Champion again, it looked like the company had finally realized what was under its nose the entire time. Nine days later, the title was vacated because of a contract dispute, but Styles continued to hold the title on TV during negotiations. Styles would later tell us the negotiations fell through because the company wanted to reduce his pay by roughly 60%, which didn’t sit well for someone who had just been crowned champion.
Styles returned to the independent scene and worked many dates, mostly in England, before New Japan signed him to a contract in March 2014. He was immediately established in the main event scene by attacking champion Kazuchika Okada and siding with Bullet Club. Because Styles was working a full-time schedule in Ring of Honor, Karl Anderson took care of the stable in Japan. Styles was considered the leader of The Young Bucks and other members who worked in ROH. In his first match, Styles defeated Okada to become the IWGP Heavyweight Champion, achieving a feat Prince Devitt never managed.
With the group adding new members, and holding on to the Heavyweight and both tag team titles, Bullet Club was taking over New Japan. By June 28th, Bad Luck Fale had the Intercontinental title, and Yujiro Takahashi won the NEVER Openweight title. This meant Bullet Club had every championship in New Japan, except for Kota Ibushi’s (and later Kushida) Junior Heavyweight title. Since then, the group has never been this dominant over New Japan’s championships.
Styles had a 163 day reign as champion. I believe this was a rebirth of not just Bullet Club, but of AJ’s career. There was uncertainty about leaving TNA, but being given this opportunity was validation of his worth. American fans knew AJ Styles, so he proved to be a big draw for the company, and the Japanese fans respected his skills. After losing the title to Hiroshi Tanahashi, he wasn’t done there. A few months later, in February 2015, he got the title back from Tanahashi and enjoyed a 144 day reign. This makes him the second longest reigning gaijin champion, behind only Big Van Vader.
After losing the title to Okada in July, Styles spent the rest of the year helping the group. In January 2016, Styles worked his last PPV match at Wrestle Kingdom 10, where he lost an Intercontinental title match to Shinsuke Nakamura. It was revealed that he, Gallows & Anderson were heading to WWE, so the next day Styles made his last appearance. During their farewells after a tag match, Kenny Omega, The Young Bucks, and rest of the Bullet Club kicked him out of the group, with Omega becoming the new undisputed leader.
In WWE, AJ Styles reunited with Gallows & Anderson and formed The O.G. We have also seen him show respect to Finn Balor with the “too sweet” gesture. This week we reported he had re-signed with WWE, so it looks unlikely Styles will ever rejoin Bullet Club. Although, I bet he will never forget how much it helped his career in what was undoubtedly an uncertain time. By being its first champion, Styles ensured they could not deny the Bullet Club its place in New Japan history.
#12. Yujiro Takahashi – 1st Japanese Member (May 3, 2014 – Present)
The first addition during the Bullet Club rebirth was not conventional. As this was a group of outsiders, recruiting a Japanese talent drew the ire of fans. You could say he was like a traitor turning against his people. Not only that, but it was clearly about money, fame, and beautiful women. Much like The Godfather, Takahashi had his entourage of girls in skimpy outfits. He took a liking to Mao, who became his first full-time valet.
What some may not know is that Takahashi was a “ladies man” before joining BC. He was part of Chaos while it was (a heel stable) led by Shinsuke Nakamura, and Takahashi joined the group by helping AJ Styles defeat former stablemate Okada for the title. What may have come as a surprise was him winning the NEVER Openweight title (with help from Bullet Club), as he’d only been a tag champion before then.
During the civil war, Takahashi sided with The Elite, showing that he always prefers to be on the heel side. In late-2018, after being kicked out of the group following The Elite’s departure, Tama Tonga allowed him and Pieter to return in early 2019. More recently, he joined Evil’s House of Torture sub-group. There isn’t much else to say about Takahashi. He always brings the sex factor, but has contributed little else in terms of championships, but perhaps that will change someday?
#13. Mao (Torihata) – 1st Female Member & Part-Timer (May 3, 2014 – January 4, 2016)
Bullet Club has a few part-time members, many of which are managers and valets. Mao would perform stripteases in the ring, not just for Takahashi, but for the other guys as well. During one of these performances, we can see AJ Styles in full appreciation. It’s not known why New Japan let her go, but it happened the day before Styles left for WWE.
— My World with Jeff Jarrett (@MyWorldPod) December 31, 2021
#14 & 15. Jeff Jarrett & Scott D’Amore – (August 10, 2014 – January 4, 2015)
Jeff Jarrett & Scott D’Amore turned up in New Japan because they were looking to promote Global Force Wrestling. Because it was trying to compete with other American companies, they needed to generate some buzz. On June 21, 2014, it was announced that GFW and New Japan had signed a working agreement. So when Jarrett & D’Amore turned up in August, they joined Bullet Club, and it makes sense given their link to AJ Styles from their TNA days. Jeff Jarrett was one of AJ’s biggest rivals over the NWA World Championship early in his career. Scott D’Amore managed Team Canada and Petey Williams, who AJ had many epic matches with in the X-Division.
Bullet Club now had part of what made TNA, only without the baggage. Jarrett worked a tag match with Bullet Club at Wrestle Kingdom 9, but other than that and helping AJ beat Yoshitatsu, they didn’t get up to much. Jarrett was trying too hard to make a close working relationship with Impact Wrestling, which ultimately led to everything falling apart and the two sides going to court over the GFW name and streaming services.
#16. Kenny Omega – 3rd Leader, 2nd IWGP Heavyweight Champion (November 8, 2014 – October 30, 2018)
I’d like to do another entry for Kenny Omega in the next piece, because if I were to cover everything here, it would be too big. So for now, let’s cover what he did on the way to becoming the third leader of Bullet Club.
Omega never originally wanted to be part of the faction, because he didn’t see himself as a gaijin. Having worked in Japan since 2008, Kenny had learned the language and made Japan his home. Another reason he & The Young Bucks didn’t like it so much was because it was too obviously ripping off the New World Order. He was eventually persuaded, and in late 2014, it was revealed he had joined and changed his gimmick to “The Cleaner”, with the plan being that he would clean up the junior heavyweight division.
Omega did as he set out to do by defeating Ryusuke Taguchi for the Junior Heavyweight title at Wrestle Kingdom 9. Aside from 80 days (because of Kushida), he held the title for the rest of the year. Omega gained popularity for his performances, along with his acceptance of Japanese culture. One of the biggest things people picked up is him being huge Final Fantasy VII fan. Omega took many elements from its main villain, Sephiroth. His music, the name of his finisher, the color of his hair, and sometimes his entrance attire, were all inspired by one of Sephiroth, who is known as One Winged Angel.
Near the end of his junior heavyweight title reign, Omega moved away from Final Fantasy and adopted a Terminator gimmick. This was because his rival Kushida uses a Back To The Future gimmick, so he wanted something which could time travel, but in a more destructive way. He used The Terminator in his presentation and merchandise for the rest of his New Japan career, until he gave it up when he left to form AEW. To this day, he still calls his finisher One Winged Angel in reference to Sephiroth.
What was most impressive about Omega was how he rose through the ranks. When he joined Bullet Club, he was a relative unknown to anyone outside Japan. Being in the Bullet Club spotlight as AJ Styles drew fans in and brought many fresh eyes to see what he could do. New Japan noticed his potential, and by the end of 2015, he was making some bold statements. Even if AJ Styles hadn’t gone to WWE, it was only a matter of time. Omega was getting to the main event scene, but this possibly happened quicker than anyone expected.
With Styles leaving, along with Gallows & Anderson, the Bullet Club needed new leadership. Creative could have given it to the founders, Tama Tonga or Bad Luck Fale, but they instead trusted it to someone who didn’t originally want any part of it. This may have been a ploy to give Omega the motivation to make the Bullet Club in a new image, to push it away from being a nWo parody. We’ll cover what happened during Omega’s era in the next piece.
#17. “Bullet Babe” Amber Gallows – First Female Champion (January 4, 2015 – January 5, 2016)
Originally billed as Amber O’Neal, she married Doc Gallows in 2014. By 2015, she changed her ring name to Amber Gallows and began escorting her husband during his tag matches with Karl Anderson. She represented the Bullet Club across the United States in promotions like SHINE and GFW. At NJPW Wrestling Dontaku ‘15, she made history with Maria Kanellis by becoming the first women to wrestle for New Japan since 2002. The team of The Gallows & Anderson lost to Matt Taven, Mike Bennett & Maria Kanellis.
In her last month with Bullet Club, Amber picked up the NWA World Women’s Championship. Despite becoming the first woman to win a title on the faction’s behalf, she moved away from the group following Wrestle Kingdom 10. In the timeline, she seemed to leave at the same time as AJ Styles and Mao. Perhaps it was done so she could focus on her title reign? Or maybe there was a conflict of interest? We may never know. Doc & Amber was divorced by 2017, and she reverted to the O’Neal name. Still, she made history twice as a member of Bullet Club, which can never be taken away.
#18. Cody Hall – First Trainee (January 5, 2015 – April 10, 2016)
Scott Hall (aka Razor Ramon) introduced his son Cody Hall to the world of wrestling in 2012. By the beginning of 2015, he was training in New Japan’s dojo. Bullet Club introduced him as their new trainee, which is the only time they have done this. While Scott Hall rarely showed up to support his son, he never officially joined the group. He respected what they were doing.
Hall spent much of his New Japan career in tag matches, and working as an enforcer for The Young Bucks. Since being released in 2017, he has struggled to get regular work. Hall was fired from DDT Pro-Wrestling for joking about COVID-19 on Twitter. Also, he was released from MLW after just one day. It’s just one of those things… the business isn’t for everyone.
#19. Mephisto – Shortest Time as Member (January 18, 2015 – January 19, 2015)
Leading in to CMLL and NJPW’s six day Fantastica Mania 2015 PPV event, management was looking to have some representation, so it relaunched Bullet Club Latin America. On night 5, the CMLL Mexican National Light Heavyweight Champion was ready to defend his title.
Escorted by Yujiro Takahashi, Mephisto revealed he was part of Bullet Club, and defended the title against Stuka Jr. The next night, Mephisto and Takahashi worked together to defeat the team of Ángel de Oro and Stigma. And that ended Mephisto’s time in Bullet Club. As of this writing, he is the last Mexican member.
#20. Chase Owens (October 23, 2015 – Present)
Before debuting with New Japan, Chase Owens was an NWA mainstay. Being trained by Ricky Morton of the Rock N’ Roll Express in 2007, he spent his early career in CWA and wrestling for NWA titles, notably becoming the Junior Heavyweight Champion three times. Owens didn’t leave any impression in the AJ Styles era, and it’s hard to say how much he has made since then. He didn’t get a full-time contract with New Japan until 2019, despite being in the faction since 2015.
In over 7 years, he has won two things, including the New Japan Ranbo and becoming a provisional KOPW champion for 41 days last year. Like Takahashi, during the civil war he sided with The Elite. After they left for AEW, they kicked him out of the group, but Tonga brought him back with Takahashi and Pieter. To this day, he continues working on behalf of Bullet Club. Mostly just to make up the numbers, but can he reach the next level of success? Only time will tell.
Next time, we will cover the Kenny Omega era! Hope to see you then. Thanks for reading.